An intensive literature review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzed existing research on vulnerable populations —including disabled, LGBTQ, and racial groups — to determine the challenges they face navigating the institutions of health care and to create strategies for reducing health disparities among such populations.
Literature highlighting vulnerable populations was evaluated for methodology, interventions, and resulting improvements. The review gauged the status of current cultural competence among hospitals and other health care providers and made suggestions for improvements moving forward.
Researchers found that intervention strategies differed for the three vulnerable groups, but some methods frequently were cited in literature targeting each subgroup. Most commonly, the literature engaged an intervention strategy to promote individuals’ use of the formal health care system or improve providers’ knowledge in an attempt to alter attitudes towards disadvantaged populations.
However, the review also found that many gaps in the literature still exist. Primarily, AHRQ noted that no studies in the review included outcomes that demonstrated a significant reduction of health disparities.
Recognizing that every minority group faces different challenges is essential to improving the quality of health care for all. The report concludes that we must identify and target the specific difficulties facing each subpopulation of vulnerable individuals to alleviate those challenges. The HHS Office of Minority Health has dedicated an initiative to supporting cultural competence.